Last weekend in Northampton County an unvaccinated family pet dog became seriously ill. It was taken to the Cape Charles Animal Hospital on Monday, March 4. There the dog was determined to be exhibiting symptoms suggestive of rabies and was euthanized. The veterinarian, Dr. Higgins, requested that the Northampton County Health Department (NCHD) have the pet tested for rabies. On Wednesday, March 6, the state laboratory reported to the NCHD that the dog tested positive for rabies.
The dog was from the Wilkins Drive area near Cheriton. It was described as a 1 1/2 year-old male, mostly black, long-haired dog with a long tail, with white face markings and white paws, weighing about 20 pounds.
Rabies alert notices have been distributed to all nearby residences. All persons known to have been exposed to this pet are being appropriately treated. However, any other person who had contact, or whose pet had contact with a dog meeting this description in the Wilkins Drive area at any time since Feb. 20 should immediately contact the NCHD at 757- 442-6228.
Rabies is a fatal disease caused by a virus that is present in the saliva of infected animals. Rabies is spread when the virus enters a fresh open wound, or through exposure of a mucous membrane of the nose, eye, or mouth. Rabies is now endemic in our raccoon population with spillover into other species. High-risk species include raccoons, foxes, skunks, cats, and bats.
Eastern Shore Health District Environmental Health Supervisor Keith Privett said, “this most recent incident is a reminder that we must all keep a heightened sense of awareness regarding rabies.”
The most important things citizens can do to protect themselves include:
-Keep all pets vaccinated against rabies. Be sure to keep vaccinations current.
-Keep your pets on your own property. Do not allow them to run at large.
-Avoid contact with stray or unknown pets, and avoid contact with wildlife.
-Report all animal bites to the local health department or the sheriff’s office.